Lions, Tigers and (Teddy) Bears

Having completed my online, animated advent calendar (all made though not all posted as I am uploading a new one each day) a friend suggested making a Hannukah calendar for the 8 days of Hannukah. Why not, I like a challenge and I recklessly completed the first one too early...
But also, being stalled on my current project due to a problem with external suppliers, Iwas looking for a short-term project to complete meanwhile.
So - what have we learned so far from this exercise? The amount of time it takes to make  8 x 15 second animations increases exponentially when it is such unfamiliar territory. I'm not Jewish, and while advent calendars -  chocolate, musical or otherwise - are an annual part of my experience, I've never celebrated Hannukah. Obviously, I know what it is (I told myself, realising rapidly that didactic knowledge and emotional understanding are miles apart)...but while I feel confident in messing with my own (lapsed, born-again Atheist) traditions and stories, when faced with someone else's I am unsure. I imagine I would give the same sort of wishes, gifts, and suffer the same rituals around Hannukah as I do around Christmas - and I am thrilled to discover the wealth and variety of revolting Hanukkah Jumpers available to buy, not to mention the elf-equivalent Mensch-on-a-Bench. But what if I tread on some cultural-specific toes? what if I just get it wrong and people think "meh! nothing like MY Hannukah".
This is the joy of moving into commission territory. Not the fear of seeming something-ist. Not the egotistical notion that my online work will reach such a vast audience as to command massive outrage or misery. More the realisation that so much of our work is necessarily and irrevocably tied to our individual experience, and trying to gain that experience and understanding second- or third-hand is really really hard work. And very hard to be certain you have got it right. Speaking recently to some overseas students about the multiple possibilities of informal conversational language, I heard myself saying "well, you could say that, but no-one ever does. I mean people would understand what you meant, but most people would say..." But. You would be marked out as foreign, outsider, not necessarily badly treated for all that, but not really getting it, and so perhaps not - in this context - worth listening to. What can I possibly tell someone about, or how can I add to or illuminate, their experience if I can't even share it?
In the end, I'm doing this because I said I would. and because I'm finding the process to be a learning one. and because I'm hoping that there is more - more familiarity to family rituals, and mid-winter affirmations of life, love and belonging - that unites us as people than there are things - religious, cultural or historical - that divide us.

No comments:

Post a Comment